Clients Want to Take the Driver’s Seat

Recent surveys of homeowners who have undertaken remodeling, renovation or building projects in the past year – or who plan to do so within the next year – show clients are often turning to providers of professional services for advice. They view the designer less as a project director and more as a contributor – one of many they may choose to work with. They may want help choosing a style, selecting colors or fabrics, or deciding on a major furniture or appliance purchase. They are less interested in procuring a full range of services. In fact, they may have already done quite a bit of planning, purchasing and even “design” before they contact you, and have selected a contractor they want to work with.

Working with these clients can be challenging, and potentially unprofitable. I see more designers offering flat fees to attract business, but unless you’re very good at accounting for your time, you are likely to underestimate a project. A better approach, I think, is to subtly make the client aware of their limited experience by asking probing questions like “have you considered this?” or “are you aware there are other options?” to demonstrate your expertise and value, and “will you also need x (such as window treatments or flooring)?” to offer your purchasing services. The client probably won’t relinquish the driver’s seat, but they might decide to engage more of your services.

Are you feeling challenged by the new business environment? Please contact me. I can work with you to develop a business model to deal with today’s “take charge” clients that will give you flexibility while maintaining profitability.


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